LIMA — Routine doctor’s appointments are beginning to look a lot different as a result of the coronavirus.
All non-urgent matters, including dental and eye care appointments, are encouraged to be postponed, but area doctors know there are still those in need of medical care not involving the coronavirus. As a result, several have turned to telemedicine services that allow for video visits, email correspondence and other unique ways to connect with patients.
In accordance with Gov. Mike DeWine’s State of Emergency declaration, healthcare providers will be able to use telemedicine in place of in-person visits to meet minimal standards of care. Ranging to checking potential coronavirus symptoms to refilling a prescription, nearly every need is able to be met.
Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center and Lima Memorial Health System have each implemented aspects of telemedicine in the past two years, but it has been ramped up and trickled down to all offices as a response to COVID-19.
Mark Kahle, a family medicine specialist with St. Rita’s Family Medicine has been using video visits and MyChart Evisits for the past year and a half. This allows patients to still have face-to-face medical care from the comfort of their homes or to fill out questionnaires with symptoms that will be followed up on with a physician.
Each of Lima Memorial Health System’s eight walk-in care centers has also moved over to telemedicine visits in the last week. Susan Kaufman of Lincoln Family Practice in Wapakoneta was one of those Lima Memorial physicians in the trial period as their office introduced the technology for the first time. They turned to the online telemedicine service doxy.me.
“It’s brand new for us but the transition has gone really well for people that don’t want to be exposed to germs or just don’t have the transportation to get in,” Kaufman said. “The first one, I didn’t know how to get my volume up but after that, it’s been smooth sailing. We’ve been able to take care of rashes, wounds on faces and even do blood pressure checks because patients frequently have their own cuffs at home.”
Warren Morris, chief clinical officer with Health Partners of Western Ohio, joins Kahle and Kaufman in that nearly all of his visits have transitioned to this new platform of video visits, telephone calls and emails. For those issues that aren’t able to be addressed, that’s the point at which a physical appointment is scheduled.
“We were doing this on a very limited basis for the last year, but had always had our eye toward expansion,” Morris said. “Until the current crisis and changes in the telemedicine rules, we really could not deploy it on a larger scale.
“We’ve not seen a sunset on any of these rules, so I’m not sure how the guidelines will be after the crisis,” Morris added. “This has been technologically possible for many, many years but the bureaucracy has been holding it up. I can say with confidence that we’re able to deliver high-value care via telemedicine and we’d very much like to continue that after the crisis.”
Reach Tara Jones at 567-242-0511.